Shaggin’ in the churchyard at the Wise Fourth

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 04:03 PM

WISE — From points far and near, the Virginias to the Carolinas and beyond, they came on a sunny Fourth of July.

Young and old, black and white, they were all here to celebrate America’s independence, 237 years strong.

The parade ran from South Wise to North Wise, or from just beyond Michael’s Quarry Road to just past Carrie Dunn Road. Wise doesn’t have a stoplight, just a few intersections and lots of friendly people in between them glad to have people come for a visit.

Its not everywhere that a U.S. highway is closed, then lined with a couple thousand people and filled with just about every mode of transportation — tractors, lawn mowers and boats on trailers just to name a few.

They gathered under shady old oak trees at the Wise Baptist Church. Vendors form various non-profits set up tents. Food was pure Americana and the South, replete with hot dogs, gizzards, barbecue, Italian ice, homemade ice cream and plenty of Pepsi, the taste born in the Carolinas.

The 12th annual Wise Fourth of July celebration was, by all accounts, a rousing success. Tribute was paid to veterans, Steve Owens and Summertime entertained with live music and shaggin’ in the churchyard for this day was just fine.

“They really do something extra,” said John Moody, a World War II veteran who turns 92 in three weeks. He was parade grand marshal.

Jerry Phelps agreed. He’s a veteran of the Vietnam War who retired to Lake Gaston after a 26-year career as a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army.

“They really put on a good show,” Phelps said.

And he was part of it, driving his 1957 Metropolitan with the Tar River Cruisers near the front of the parade.

“The Vietnam vets, we didn’t get welcomed the first time we came back,” Phelps said. “But they honor everybody here.”

The brush truck for the Hawtree Volunteer Fire Department pulled a trailer loaded with veterans of various military engagements.

“Times have changed,” Phelps said. “I think people are realizing soldiers are protecting our way of life.”

And what a way of life it is in Wise on the Fourth. Children were crying and smiling while hugging mommas and daddies, grandmas and grandpas. Blankets and chairs were everywhere. Others didn’t mind just standing.

Many greetings resembled a reunion, like they hadn’t seen one another in a long time. And some had not.

When asked by the emcee, they called out places from which they traveled. Lizard Lick, Goldsboro and Fayetteville were a few. Nobody said Alaska like last year.

Toes were tapping, and a few got up and danced or bounced around the red, white and blue stage. There were American flags everywhere. And smiles, lots of smiles and laughter.

They took pictures with cameras, cellphones and video cameras on tripods. While the parade passed, they watched from blankets, chairs, cars and trucks. Even a few all-terrain vehicles pulled up to the highway to see what was going on.

It was the Fourth of July in Wise. A morning turned to afternoon with heat rising and pride swelling in what it means to be American.

Land of the free, home of the brave. And in this crossroads community, a holiday tradition second to none.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.